Arthur Miller, as one would expect, makes both
a moral and a philosophical point in ďThe Ride Down Mt. Morgan,Ē
but his play is a comedy; its subject, as traditionally with comedy,
is sex. This is ďDeath of a SalesmanĒ turned inside out.
The central character, aptly titled Lyman Felt, is a former insurance
salesman who has built an empire and acquired sports cars, planes,
homes Ė and two wives, one in a swanky apartment in Manhattan
and the other in upstate New York, site of one of his branch offices.
Charming, daring, and confident, Lyman feels he is entitled to
it all. Patrick Stewart is superb in the role, wearing a
Clinton-like gray wig and believing and persuasively arguing,
like the man he resembles, that he has done nothing wrong.
The wivesí view is different. Although
he points out when discovered, they too have enjoyed and profited
from their marriages to Lyman, irreparable harm has been done,
not only to them but to the child each has borne to Lyman, who
swears he loves both women. Under Lymanís bonhomie, there
is also a need for human contact, so desperate one snowy night
in upstate New York that he risks driving down icy Mt. Morgan,
resulting in the accident that precipitates the action.
Michael Blakemore has skillfully directed what
the printed text reveals as a most difficult work to stage.
The scenes move back and forth in time, and the character of Lyman
is a complex one: the audience must empathize with his position
as well as those of the wives. On paper, Lyman (only one
letter change from Loman, Millerís great tragic hero) is less
sympathetic than in the flesh, especially as interpreted by Stewart,
who has created leading Shakespearean roles for the Royal Shakespeare
In revising the play since it appeared in London
and off Broadway in 1991, Miller has simplified it, deleting Lymanís
dead father, who wanders in and out of Lymanís hospital room and
who represents Lymanís fear of death, a fear confined to dialog
and action in the revision. But Miller has retained the
silly scene of Lymanís fantasy of the two women on pedestals contending
for Lymanís sexual favors by flaunting their culinary skills.
The end is as meaningful as it is expected.
Both women leave Lyman. And he is left to question even
his material gains as he is filled with envious wonderment at
his nurseís delight in her familyís ice-fishing, wearing the new
shoes they have purchased at bargain prices.